‘Hand of Danger’: Origins

Posted: August 13, 2009 in Threat Quality
Tags: , , ,

Hand of Danger - Promo ShotSo what is the secret origin of “Tommy Cait, Hand of Danger”?

Well, I can’t tell you as far as the character – it is, after all, a secret origin (by which I mean, we haven’t written it yet) – but I can tell you how Chris and I developed what is sure to be the “it” webcomic of the late summer ’09 season. (Take THAT, www.drmcninja.com! Though seriously, y’all should go read “Dr. McNinja.”)

As usual, it started over email: “Did I ever tell you about my ‘Iron Fist’ proposal?” Chris asked me. “I feel compelled to show that it is possible – even desirable – to make an Iron Fist movie without Ray Park.”

“Do go on,” I replied (well, kinda; that part is not an exact transcript.)

So Chris sent me his treatment. He had broken it down in a “scriptment” form (dialogue, and basic explanation of action) as a series of two-minute “episodes.” And unfortunately for me, he had written it just vividly enough that I could easily see how it would break down onto a comic book page. And quite suddenly, I wanted to draw it.

We casually discussed changing certain aspects of his pitch to create a wholly new character. I tossed out the “Tommy Cait, Hand of Danger” name, thinking it sounded enough like a poorly-translated kung fu movie title. Then, on April 23 (thanks again, Gmail), I wrote: “I put together a nice iconic image for a ‘Tommy Cait: Hand of Danger’ promo shot. We can post this tomorrow.”

Please take note of the current date. This is how dumb I am. I was under the impression that I could draw the thing in like a couple of weeks. As of this writing, I still owe Chris the last two pages (the pencils are done, I swear!).

So now that the first four pages (the first “episode,” as it were) is up, you may be wondering, just what is “Hand of Danger” supposed to be?

In one sense, it’s Chris and I using the kung-fu exploitation craze of the 70’s in our own way, much the same as Marvel Comics did when they decided to cash in on the craze with “Iron Fist.”Hand of danger design

In another, it’s the chance to utilize a comics pitch that was never gonna happen. Often, when you put together a pitch for an existing character, it’s remarkably easy to strip away all the character-specific bits, and rebuild it into your own thing. It’s also creatively freeing – once you don’t have to worry about a character’s established continuity, it’s’ that much easier to make something that reflects your storytelling interests (it happens all the time at the professional level – I’m still fairly certain all of the ideas Warren Ellis came up with for his aborted “Dr. Strange” and “Hellblazer” runs got unfettered use in his various “Gravel” stories for Avatar).

In yet another, it’s a way of combining high action with inarticulate citydwellers to create a new genre I like to call “mumble-kung-fu.”

And in a fourth sense, it’s a way for me to draw action sequences while Chris explains the art of zen. In part two (starting next week), Tommy Cait shows that he’s got some Serious Fightin’ Skills that his Yellow Pages ad only hinted at; and in part three, you’ll see that he is also a master of Explaining the Deeper Meaning Of It All.

And after that there will be more fighting. Because I like drawing fights. (Also sexy ladies, but – the adorableness of Tommy’s client aside – this has not yet presented itself in any of our subsequent plots.)

“Tommy Cait, Hand of Danger” will be an ongoing feature on Threat Quality for the foreseeable future. Action, philosophy, hilarity. Possibly, at some point, sexy ladies.

Spread the word.

  1. braak says:

    I think what’s really funny is that I used to read about how the Marvel comics worked–some guy would write the rough outline of the story, the artist would draw pictures that left room for dialogue, and then the writer would go back and put the words in later–and think that was totally insane. How could anyone work that way?

    But, it’s what we ended up using, and it turned out to be really convenient. I could write the script without worrying about page layout, Holland can adjust the action to fit the pages, and then I rework the dialogue to fit the action.

    I was surprised at how effective it was.

  2. braak says:

    Also, Holland: should we just get you a tablet PC? Then you can draw without leaving the gray mess behind, AND we can easily add color!

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    Yes. Let’s get me a tablet PC!

    What would that cost, like $30, $40?

  4. Tad says:

    about time you guys start spending some of that big-time TQP cash I assume you are pulling in every day!

  5. braak says:

    We can write it off as a tax deduction.

  6. V.I.P. Referee says:

    I like your lines, Holland; they’re confident, fluid—not too sketchy. The bend of his chest in both “puffed” extended and retracted position is very nice, it gives the impression of active power against the stillness of the “leg” lines—all resulting in a dynamic impression. And we all know Braak is an authentic “Zen-master”. We’d do well to borrow from his stoic, state of enlightenment–delivered each day/week with a saucy slap from the “Hand of Danger”!

    By the way, what else have you guys written-off as a “tax deduction? I suspect Moff’s already saved two receipts from “The Champagne Club” and he’s only had one entry posted on here (that was said with a sense of respectful camaraderie, Moff. I understand the necessary evils. Some people—probably Holland and Braak—couldn’t possibly understand how stressful writing can be–the pressures, the crunch on time and creativity, having to deliver inspiration and passion to others when sometimes, you’re just crying inside…you do what you have to do, Moff. And save the receipts.)

  7. Jeff Holland says:

    I am constantly on the lookout for things I could potentially write off come next year’s taxes. So far, I think I have a good case for the printer I bought.

    A note on “Marvel-style” scripting: I believe it started because Stan Lee was writing ALL the books in the early 60’s, and so with deadlines in mind, it was just easier to trust the artists with the visuals.

    This unfortunately led to some problems when their storytelling urges failed to jibe with Lee’s – most notably Ditko, who’s an Objectivist, which didn’t exactly fall in line with what Lee had in mind for Spider-Man (this is why John Romita is considered the definitive “classic-Spidey” artist, not Ditko).

    And yet, for whatever reasons, the Lee-style of scripting stuck at Marvel (enough that it’s generally referred to as “Marvel-style”), well after other writers took the reins of the books. Which has led to plenty of instances of writers having to “script-edit” – put in lines of dialogue to clarify confusing panels or otherwise make sense of shoddy visual storytelling (also the subject of this week’s “Comic Book Legends Revealed” at my favorite comics blog, Comics Should Be Good: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/08/13/comic-book-legends-revealed-220/).

    My favorite anecdotal example comes from Warren Ellis, who apparently had to write around an artist who, instead of drawing what was written, decided to draw a big ol’ dinosaur instead (I actually asked Ellis via e-mail to specify, but he was classy enough to decline naming names).

  8. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Artists can be very stubborn about what they will or will not create. They’ll sometimes do exactly what they want in their work, after smiling and nodding while clients give directions. Sometimes it’s hard to tame creativity and make it behave in a specific way (fields designated for taming the creative beast: “Graphic Design”, “Architecture”, “Technical Writing”). The Warren Ellis “dinosaur” situation is a prime example of that. The artist might’ve argued that the dinosaur did, indeed, serve the text. Warren Ellis just didn’t understand the inspiration.

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